President Zhelyu Zhelev and Prime Minister Zhan Videnov met at the Boyana Residence today. After the meeting the press offices of the Government and the President issued identical statements. The meeting was a working one. The two sides discussed the forthcoming visit by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to Bulgaria, focusing on the agreements to be signed, the implementation of which would impart meaning to the bilateral treaty between Bulgaria and Russia, according to the statements. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that it is necessary to improve the interaction between the state institutions, regardless of ideological and political differences, the statements said. They also agreed that direct contact between President and Prime Minister is much more useful than contacts through mediators. The two sides agreed to hold regular meetings in order to synchronize the activities of the two institutions both on the foreign political and on the internal political scene, which is in Bulgaria's interest, the statements said in conclusion. The meeting continued for slightly more than two hours. According to preliminary information, provided on condition of anonymity, the meeting was to discuss the relations between the two institutions. Recently the relations between the President and the Prime Minister were strained, though at a large news conference last Friday the President refrained from attacking the Government. Nevertheless, he spoke of recommunization in Bulgaria. Other topics expected to be discussed at the meeting were the visit by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, foreign and internal political issues, including agriculture and the Land Act on which the President imposed a suspensive veto.
Bulgarian Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov and National Bank of Bulgaria Governor Todor Vulchev are on a working visit to Germany. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development Roumen Gechev was initially included in the delegation as well. Finance Minister Kostov told the National Radio the initial programme was that a Bulgarian government delegation visit Germany headed by Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev, National Radio correspondent Alexander Vladkov said in a report from Bonn this evening. Vladkov went on to say at the last moment German Finance Minister Theo Waigel refused to meet Deputy Prime Minister Gechev. The meeting was scheduled for May 16. According to this National Radio correspondent, Theo Waigel's refusal was prompted by allegations in a Bulgarian newspaper that Bulgaria is a major money laundering station for the whole world, with banks, including state-run ones, playing a key role in this business. "Probably it is not the best time for meeting Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance," Vladkov went on to say. He further said a spokesperson of the Finance Ministry in Bonn would neither dismiss nor confirm the connection between Theo Waigel's decision and the money laundering allegations. The Public Relations officer of the Ministry of Economic Development, Ventsislav Zahariev, said Theo Waigel did not refuse to meet Roumen Gechev but just asked that the meeting be postponed so that he could attend an emergency sitting of his party. Theo Waigel has called a meeting of the Christian Social Union he heads after the Union's failure in the local elections. The Bulgarian delegation, which the programme envisaged to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Roumen Gechev, was offered to meet Germany's Deputy Finance Minister. Roumen Gechev turned down the invitation and the meeting will now be attended by Finance Minister Dimiter Kostov who left for Germany together with central bank Governor Todor Vulchev, Zahariev further said. The delegation also includes the chief of office of the Minister of Economic Development who is expected to fix a new date for a meeting between Roumen Gechev and Theo Waigel, Zahariev said. Bulgaria's liabilities to the former German Democratic Republic, which Germany inherited after the unification, remain high on the agenda of the two countries' financiers and governments. Bulgarian experts believe it is impossible to find an acceptable hard currency equivalent to Bulgaria's 530 million transferable rubls debt to Germany, that this country's economy will be able to repay. Such a huge sum could be included in a bilateral accord only if an agreement is reached at a government level for a coefficient to make possible the servicing of Bulgaria's debt, Deputy Finance Minister Svetoslav Gavriiski said several months ago. Bulgaria then signed a bilateral agreement on rescheduling its liabilities to Japan within the London Club. Agreements to that effect have not yet been signed with Germany, Italy and Spain, as the problem with Germany, Gavriiski believes, is the most serious one.
A Bulgarian parliamentary delegation headed by Parliament Chairman Blagovest Sendov today left for Germany. The official visit will start tomorrow with a working breakfast with Karsten Voigt, President of the North Atlantic Assembly, at Petersberg, the government residence. The delegation is scheduled to meet with Bundestag President Rita Suessmuth, German President Roman Herzog and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Helmut Schaefer. The Bulgarian deputies will also meet with Karl-Heinz Hornhues, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, at a working breakfast.
National Assembly Chairman Blagovest Sendov today received Simon Lunn, Assistant Secretary General of the North Atlantic Assembly. Mr Lunn is paying a working visit to Bulgaria in connection with an Assembly conference due in June in Sofia, said the National Assembly Press Office. The sides discussed the forthcoming official visit to Bulgaria of the President of the North Atlantic Assembly. Blagovest Sendov told his guest that there is a consensus in Bulgaria on the relations with NATO. He recalled that the Bulgarian Parliament in December 1993 issued a declaration on furthering the efforts for using the cooperation opportunities that NATO and the Western European Union offer. Mr Lunn voiced NATO's view that a pragmatic approach should be adopted to the question of NATO's possible expansion and that the application of each country should be considered separately, said the National Assembly release.
Bulgaria will enjoy unilateral duty concessions for certain goods exported to Russia after a Bulgarian-Russian intergovernmental commission on economic, scientific and technical cooperation tomorrow sign the closing protocol for its third session. BTA learned this from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Economic Cooperation Kiril Tsochev, who chairs the Bulgarian side of the joint commission sitting here for a second day. A request for a 50% reduction of duties was delivered to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin by his Bulgarian counterpart Zhan Videnov during the latter's visit to Moscow for the V- E Day celebrations. Paying now 100% duty, Bulgarian exporters to Russia are among the very few who enjoy no concessions. The Russian side has not approached this country with a request to the same effect and the preferential duties will be introduced unilaterally, Tsochev told the BTA. There are certain legal hurdles for the immediate entry into force of the preferential duties but the problem will be settled very soon, the Deputy Prime Minister went on to say. The intergovernmental commission is also considering projects for joint ventures to produce cigarettes, wine and medicines. The commission has drafted six intergovernmental and five interdepartmental agreements to be signed during Viktor Chernomyrdin's visit to Bulgaria on May 18 and 19. There will probably be another two accords in transport on which experts are still working. Prime Minister Videnov today received the members of the Russian delegation led by Minister of Finance Viktor Panskov. The guests briefed him on the work of the intergovernmental commission's third session and the drafting of the agreements.
It is a key priority of the cabinet to develop the judicial system in accordance with the fundamental constitutional principles: rule of law and supremacy of the law, separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, says the cabinet's tenure programme released in Sofia yesterday. One of the cabinet's priorities in this respect is the approximation of Bulgarian law to that of the European Union. The cabinet will draft and put forth for broad discussion and approval a judiciary reform programme. At the same time, the issue of the balance of powers and their mutual control should be given careful consideration, the programme says. The cabinet will come up with a considerably improved version of the criminal and civil judicial procedure. Its main objective is to expedite it and improve its efficiency, as well as to guarantee the mandatory nature of the sentence. The reform of the judiciary cannot be carried out without proper care for the judges. In this respect the cabinet will propose an efficient system to protect their lives and inviolability, as well as to ensure their proper qualification. Similarly to countries which have "law schools", Bulgaria will gradually introduce a system providing education for judges for longer periods of time. The existing regulations on the prosecutor's office and the investigative authorities cause serious difficulties in their work, the programme says. The two institutions perform a number of extrinsic functions which lie within the competence of the executive, while others, such as crime control, are neglected. Police investigation should be reinstated as part of preliminary proceedings, the programme says. The forthcoming completion of the division and consolidation of the land, and the drawing of new cadastral maps and land records necessitate changes in the notary's office. The cabinet believes that a private notary's office has to be established. The cabinet will improve the activities on legal execution. In 1994 alone, arrears of payments nearly trebled, the programme says.
Improving Bulgaria's connections with its Balkan neighbours and Europe is the major priority of the plans of Zhan Videnov's Socialist Cabinet concerning transport and telecommunications. The Cabinet unveiled its comprehensive programme for the country's development in 1995-1998 on Monday. The Government undertakes to continue the construction of the North-South transport corridors from Vidin and Lom on the Danube to Sofia and Kulata at the Bulgarian-Greek border. Special attention is paid to the building up of a new bridge across the Danube in Northwestern Bulgaria that will service trains and motor vehicles. At present there is only one bridge connecting Bulgaria and Romania that spans the Danube at Rousse and Giurgiu. Another priority project is the Kalotina-Kapitan Andreevo trunk way providing connection between the border with Serbia and Turkey respectively. The construction of the railway to Macedonia will be continued. The Cabinet promises to develop a programme for the efficient use of Bulgaria's river fleet along the Danube after the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia is settled. The document stresses the importance of resolving the problem of the losses the Bulgarian river fleet suffers as a result of the Yugoembargo. Possibilities will be sought for cooperation with the other danubian countries. The Government undertakes to renew the bus fleet of state public transport enterprises and the aircraft of the national carrier Balkan Airlines; the railway network will be repaired. Privatization mechanisms will be used in road, sea and river transport. Besides mapping out measures for the rehabilitation, development and modernization of the national transport infrastructure, the Government points out that it is necessary to harmonize Bulgaria's transport legislation with the transport policy of the European Union member-states. The national telecommunication network will be developed in accordance with the European and the world standards for the purpose of its future integration with the European and the world telecommunication systems. It is pointed out in the programme that the problem of the lengthy connection lines, arising in connection with the war in ex- Yugoslavia, will be resolved by restoring the old lines and digital extensions via the former Yugoslav republics to Central and Western Europe. The Government will create the conditons so that by the end of 1996 Bulgaria becomes one of the key transit centres in the region and Europe; this will provide it with additional foreign currency revenue, it is said in the Cabinet tenure Programme.
The Government will continue its active cooperation with the social partners in the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation of Government, employers and trade unions, it is stated in the tenure programme the Cabinet unveiled yesterday. The Cabinet will improve the forms and mechanisms for the protection and harmonization of the partners' interests, will develop the system for their informational servicing and will improve the conditions for their work. The Governemnt will enrich the content and widen the range of problems the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) and its commissions are entitled to cope with. Special attention is paid to the immediate actions to be taken for the implementation of the Social Dialogue project under the PHARE programme. A national social council will be set up along with a system of sub-structures. Besides with the NCTC, the Government will cooperate with other legitimate organizations of employers and employees, as well as with organizations "concerned with the implementation of the State's social policy," the document says. The Cabinet believes that new forms of cooperation between the economic and social partners should be sought and that the scope of consultations should be broadened. For this purpose it is proposed to set up, before the end of 1995, consultative councils with the Government, the ministries and other bodies engaged in economic and social activities. The councils would meet two or three times a year to discuss major issues before the state bodies make the respective decisions in compliance with the Consitution and the Bulgarian law.
The Government recognizes the deep crisis of the health care and its key objective in that sphere is to ensure public access to the services designed to help the individual stay healthy and fit for work, reads the Government's tenure programme for the period until 1998, which was circulated yesterday. In the conditions of restricted financial resources, the Government will introduce a new type of health policy. The efforts of the various institutions will be directed at improving health and development of adolescents, asserting the principles of healthy life and rational diet, reducing risk factors for the young and the adult, improving the working conditions, restricting the effect of unfavourable environmental factors upon public health, improvement of prophylaxis, developing health culture. Occupational and school health care will be prioritized. The Government will take measures to restructure the available accommodation facilities and medical staff in order to meet the specific requirements of certain groups of the population, territories and regions. Primary and hospital health care will be distinguished and made to counteract with each other. Everybody will be allowed to choose freely a personal doctor. Measures will be taken to fight socially-relevant diseases and to improve health care for mothers and children. The Government will adhere to the principle of affordable and free medical care for everybody, irrespective of one's social or property status. This will not restrict the development of private practitioning, but will provide legislative regulation of its relations with the public health care. Structures, like regional health authorities, boards in health establishments will be created to monitor health expenditure. The Government will exercise state control over the prices of pharmaceuticals on the home market. Already next year it will start improving the system of granting free pharmaceuticals.
The US dollar gained 1.30 leva, the press says. According to "24 Chassa", this is a late response to the reduction of the base interest rate to 54 per cent. Citing senior financial officials, the daily says that the National Bank of Bulgaria (BNB) has given up trying to maintain the US dollar rate at about 65 leva for a dollar. At the end of the day yesterday, the rates were about 66.10 - 66.15 leva for 1 US dollar. "Pari" says that the US dollar appreciated after a 4-month stability.
The National Electrical Company needs 11 million US dollars to build new capacities for electricity production by the year 2020, "24 Chassa" says, quoting a statement of Deputy Chairman of the Energy Committee Konstantin Rousinov.
Charges for foreign users of Sofia airport will be raised from 3 US dollars to 10 or 15 US dollars, "24 Chassa" and "Standart News" quote a news release of the Transport Ministry as saying. The funds will be used to finance part of the airport repair works.
Shell-Bulgaria is going to construct a model petrol station in terms of safety and environment protection, "Standart News" says. The petrol station will be built in the town of Yambol (Southern Bulgaria). The project is worth 1 million US dollars.
The press reports the decision of the general assembly of shareholders of the Slaviani bank to increase the bank's authorized capital to 800 million leva.
The tenders in the framework of the first wave of mass privatization may be launched in March next year, Executive Director of the Centre of Mass Privatization with the Council of Ministers Yosif Iliev says, interviewed for "Troud".
President Zhelyu Zhelev today received in succession the newly appointed Ambassadors Yoshihiro Jibiki of Japan, Tapio Kalevi Saarela of Finland, and Alexander Gerassimenko of Belarus, who presented their credentials.
The town of Nikopol (on the Danube) was polluted with gas for the fourth time this month, BTA's local correspondent said. The polluter, the Romanian chemical plant in Turnu Magurele, gassed Nikopol nine times in April. The levels of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide are two to four times above the maximum permissible levels, while the ammonia content of the air exceeds these levels three to four times, up to 35 times on the worst days in 1994.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Dimiter Pavlov and Deputy Foreign Minister Stanimir Alexandrov returned from Lisbon early this morning. The two officials attended the regular meeting of foreign and defence ministers of the Western European Union (WEU) member states. Bulgaria was granted associate partner status in the WEU a year ago. Minister Pavlov told journalists that he met his Spanish, Portuguese and Greek counterparts. The Bulgarian and Spanish defence ministers agreed to continue bilateral contacts and implement some of the items of a protocol signed recently in Madrid. Pavlov and Portugal's defence minister discussed the latter's forthcoming visit to Sofia. At their meeting the defence ministers of Bulgaria and Greece reiterated their views of some aspects of bilateral cooperation.